Progress against actions in theme 3: we will prioritise settled homes for all
We have made steady progress against the outstanding actions in this section. We have completed one action; two actions are well underway; and work has started on the remaining five.
We said we would take forward work on the right to adequate housing.
- The National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership published 30 recommendations in March 2021 for a new human rights framework for Scotland.
- The Scottish Government has accepted all of these recommendations, and a new multi-treaty Human Rights Bill will be introduced this parliamentary term.
- The Scottish Government committed in its Housing to 2040 strategy in March 2021 to take action to realise the right to adequate housing in Scotland.
- Scotland's new Human Rights Bill will incorporate into Scots law, as far as possible within devolved competence, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, alongside three further UN human rights treaties. This includes the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including the right to adequate housing.
- An advisory board to support the development of the new human rights legislation has been established and it met for the first time on 9 September 2021. The board includes representatives from the housing and homelessness sector.
- Affordability is an important element of the right to adequate housing. The Scottish Government has created a new housing affordability team and has committed to working with stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of housing affordability.
- To establish the best way to make the right to adequate housing a reality, we will undertake a comprehensive audit of our current housing and homelessness legislation. This work will begin later in 2021. The audit will help us to identify where there are gaps in current domestic legislation and where remedies for violations of housing rights can be strengthened. It will also help us to assess how well current legislation protects marginalised groups and people with protected characteristics.
We said we would support the Housing First Scotland pathfinder programme in five cities, build on the early results from the Housing First pathfinder programme and work with local authorities to scale up Housing First more rapidly. We also committed to forge partnerships with health and justice systems to embed Housing First.
The three-year Housing First pathfinder programme, which involved Aberdeen/shire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling, is in its final year. Scottish Government officials have met with all the pathfinder areas to understand their plans for mainstreaming Housing First. The majority of local authorities have been developing their own Housing First programmes alongside the pathfinder and many are already offering Housing First as part of their service provision. A representative of Healthcare Improvement Scotland already sits on the rapid rehousing transition plans subgroup but we have plans to develop stronger links to ensure the continued success of Housing First.
Highland Council launched its Housing First project last year. The project brings together a small multi-disciplinary team of partners from NHS Highland Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service, the Salvation Army and Highland Council and aims to support homeless people at the highest risk of harm or death as a result of drug and/or alcohol use. So far, the partners have helped 12 people at high risk of drug-related harm or death to secure and sustain tenancies.
- Scotland's three-year Housing First pathfinder programme – the largest of its kind in the UK – passed the 500 tenancy milestone in May 2021. The pathfinder was launched in April 2019 in Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling with the help of funding from the Scottish Government (homelessness and health budgets), The Merchants House of Glasgow and Social Bite.
- Homeless Network Scotland developed, consulted and then published Branching Out in March 2021. This is a national framework, endorsed by the Scottish Government and COSLA, that captures the learning from the Housing First pathfinder and guides housing professionals on starting up and scaling up Housing First in Scotland.
- The Scottish Government provided an additional £5 million to local authorities for rapid rehousing transition plans in December 2020 as part of our winter plan for social protection. This takes our total investment in rapid rehousing and Housing First to £37.5 million.
- The latest Housing First pathfinder tracker summarises the progress made in pathfinder areas by 31 August 2021. The number of tenancies started in the pathfinder is 545 with a tenancy sustainment rate of 84 per cent. Nobody has been evicted from their home.
- The Scottish Government has been actively involved in events to promote learning about the pathfinder, including Housing First Connect meetings – which bring the five pathfinder areas together – and Scotland's Housing First conference 2021. Speakers at the conference included Scotland's former housing minister and Scotland's minister for drugs policy.
- We have set up a rural Housing First group to explore how Housing First works in a rural context. It is convened by Aberdeenshire Council and involves 15 local authorities.
- North Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway councils have developed formal relationships with the Scottish Prison Service so that Housing First can be offered to people being liberated from prison.
- We have developed a quarterly monitoring tool to capture Housing First activity across Scotland from April 2021. This will track Housing First tenancies; referral routes; support received; delivery partners; and outcomes.
- The pathfinder programme is being formally evaluated by Heriot-Watt University's Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research and an interim report was published in September 2021.
- In partnership with Homeless Network Scotland, we tested a self-assessment and peer assessment tool to monitor fidelity to the seven principles of Housing First at a roundtable event in July 2021. The tool will initially be used by local authorities with at least one year's experience of delivering Housing First.
- To improve partnerships in health, we will establish a new group that will bring together members of health and social care partnerships and rapid rehousing transition plan coordinators.
"I had been working full-time as a chef but when my marriage collapsed, I lost my job and eventually my home. Through the Salvation Army I was offered a place on the Housing First project. It's been life-changing. Sharon, my support worker, is a lifeline – from making sure I've paid my bills to reminding me about attending appointments. Having my own home means I can have a proper relationship with my children again. That's especially important around Christmas time. We are just about to move into our very first house together and are excited about getting our first Christmas tree and making things special for the children. I'm looking forward to Christmas this year thanks to The Salvation Army because I will be able to spend it with my family." Mick, Housing First client (case study reproduced with kind permission from the Salvation Army)
We said we wanted to see a significant increase to the proportion of social homes allocated to people who are homeless while we were still in phase 3 of Scotland's route map.
The former housing minister wrote to all social landlords in Scotland in late October 2020 seeking their commitment to help increase the number of allocations in social housing to households experiencing homelessness. The minister wrote separately to registered social landlords in Glasgow – a stock transfer authority – as the council depends on its registered social landlords to move homeless people into settled accommodation.
As a result of the pandemic, many home moves were halted and there were fewer social housing lets overall during 2020/21 when compared with the previous year. However, we did see an increase in the proportion of lets by social landlords to homeless households.
- Overall, social landlords let a higher proportion of homes (44 per cent of all allocations) to homeless households in 2020/21 than they did in 2019/20 (36 per cent of all allocations).
- Local authorities increased the proportion of lets to homeless households to 50 per cent of all lets in 2020/21 (up from 44 per cent in 2019/20).
- Registered social landlords increased the proportion of lets to homeless households to 38 per cent of all lets in 2020/21 (up from 28 per cent in 2019/20).
- Social landlords let 18,568 homes to homeless households in 2020/21. This was 5.5 per cent fewer lets than in 2019/20 but that should be viewed in the context of a reduction of 23 per cent in all lets.
"The support from Glasgow's registered social landlords meant that 3,288 homes were let to homeless households in 2020/21. This is an increase of 876 on the number of lets to homeless households in 2019/20 (2,412). Early indications are that this pattern of letting activity has continued in 2021." Homelessness service manager, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership
We said we would complete the delivery of 50,000 affordable homes as soon as it is safe to do so.
We remain committed to committed to increasing the supply of affordable homes and to expanding Scotland's social housing stock. The impact of coronavirus restrictions delayed the delivery of our 50,000 affordable homes target. The pace of delivery is also affected by current shortages in labour and in construction materials. The Scottish Government is planning to spend more than £6.8 billion on the affordable housing supply programme over the 10-year period from 2016-2026. The Scottish Government's per capita spending on affordable housing is more than three times higher than per capita spending by the UK Government. This investment will be complemented by funding from local authorities and registered social landlords who will work closely with the Scottish Government to ensure delivery reflects local strategic priorities and rents are affordable.
- The latest quarterly affordable housing supply programme statistics show that between April 2016 and June 2021 we delivered 42,948 affordable homes, over 29,000 of which were for social rent.
- The Scottish Government recently issued five year resource planning assumptions to local authorities to provide the certainty and assurance that the housing sector needs to deliver more affordable homes.
- We will deliver the remaining homes as quickly as it is safe to do so.
- In our programme for government 2021/22, the Scottish Government has committed to deliver 110,000 affordable homes across Scotland by 2032, with at least 70 per cent in the social rented sector and 10 per cent in our remote, rural and island communities.
We said we would encourage the housing sector to prioritise the process of bringing empty homes back into use and support local authorities to build stronger relationships with the private rented sector and to develop their empty homes services and private rented sector access schemes.
Tackling empty homes remains a priority for local and national government, even more so when people have been unable to bring homes back into use due to the pandemic. We want to see all homes occupied and none left empty without good reason. We know that one of the best ways of tackling empty homes is positive engagement with private owners. We continue to support the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership and want to see dedicated empty homes officers working across all local authorities. This approach has brought more than 6,000 homes back into use since 2010. We have set out actions in Housing to 2040 to ensure that our empty homes are maintained, improved and put to the best possible use while helping to revitalise our communities and town centres.
- We continue to support the work of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership.
- The Scottish Government has extended funding (£140,000 provided to date) for a pilot operated by Cyrenians and Crisis in Edinburgh to facilitate access to the private rented sector for people whose backgrounds and needs may have previously prevented them from sustaining a tenancy in private rented accommodation.
- The private rented sector pilot has helped 24 tenants to secure a home so far and the first tenant has now been in his home for a year. Tenant satisfaction with the support received before and after moving in is high.
- The Cyrenians and Crisis have plans in place to disseminate learning from the Edinburgh pilot with other local authorities.
- The Scottish Government is working with local authorities to audit empty homes and determine those that should be brought back into use.
- The Scottish Government will give councils the powers they need to regulate and charge owners appropriately for homes lying empty, ensuring they have the mechanisms to bring them back into productive use.
- We will create a support package for homeowners in trouble to help them stay in their home, if that is right for them, and to prevent homes falling into disrepair or becoming empty in the first place.
- We will establish a new fund for local authorities to apply to use in order to bring empty homes and potential empty homes back into residential use and convert suitable empty commercial properties in town centres.
"I've been sofa-surfing for nearly two years, after my life fell apart and I had a total breakdown. During that time, I've tried many different routes back to being housed, and it's felt like a never-ending chain of obstacles. And a vicious circle, as everything that needed fixing, depended on something else that also needed fixing. I've been mostly unmedicated, and haven't had any real privacy the whole time, and I've also been trying to process numerous traumas and personal losses.
I really had lost everything apart from hope, and I was just barely holding on to that. It seemed absolutely inconceivable, when I was first put in touch with you, that within a month I could actually have my own, privately rented flat. Or that within two months I would have all my utilities and bills sorted, and be free of virtually all the worries that for so long have been ever present in my every waking moment.
"This has been truly life-changing. I really had started to wonder if I needed to prepare myself for years of trying to get back to zero, and I now find myself content, and secure, and excited about the future, and making actual plans.
I can't overstate how much it means to have my independence and autonomy back. To have a space that's just mine, where my time is my own, and I can enjoy privacy, and peace, and figure out how I want my space to look and feel. It's liberating, and it inspires me to really seize every opportunity." Participant in the Edinburgh private rented sector pilot
We said we would develop best practice examples of choice in settled housing and assess the impacts of providing a wide range of housing options in local areas.
The aim of the City of Edinburgh Council's private rented sector (PRS) team is to reduce the number of people becoming homeless from the private rented sector and to work with private landlords to establish the private rented sector as an option for homeless households. Since March 2020, the PRS team has assisted 324 households to either remain in their current private rented sector tenancies or to secure new tenancies.
The team recently assisted a tenant who got into rent arrears as a result of ill health and loss of employment. The letting agent was keen for the tenant to remain if the arrears could be cleared. The PRS officer supported the tenant to claim relevant benefits, including a personal independence payment, and an affordable debt plan was put in place. The tenant was also helped to apply for a discretionary housing payment to cover the rent arrears. As a result of this support, the tenant has been able to remain in the property.
The five housing options hubs regularly discuss opportunities for developing approaches to choice in settled housing and share their examples of it. Scottish Government officials make sure ideas are disseminated widely. We have seen very positive use of the private rented sector to tackle homelessness in the Highlands, in the north east of Scotland and in Edinburgh.
- The City of Edinburgh Council's work to prevent homelessness from private rented homes contributed to a 44 per cent decrease in the number of homeless households in Edinburgh in 2020/21.
- Local authorities are developing shared models of accommodation to enable people to access settled housing more easily.
- The Scottish Government plans to develop a private rented sector forum so that local authorities can share learning and good practice on the use of the private rented sector.
We said we would set out our position on a temporary accommodation funding framework.
We know there are barriers to helping people move on from temporary accommodation and out of homelessness. Some of this relates to the way temporary accommodation is funded for people claiming benefits. Housing Benefit for temporary accommodation is administered by local authorities but responsibility lies with the UK Government. An aspect of the funding was devolved to Scotland in 2017 and, as a result, local authorities are allocated an annual share of £23.5 million so they can mitigate temporary accommodation overspend through homelessness prevention measures. The distribution is based on a percentage share of homeless households in temporary accommodation in each local authority over a three year average. This £23.5 million prevention fund is distinct from resource allocated to local authorities to support rapid rehousing transition plans (RRTPs), but local authorities are asked to indicate in RRTP reports any other resources – including the prevention fund – that have been used to support RRTP activity.
The Scottish Government/COSLA settlement and distribution group, which provides advice to ministers and council leaders on the allocation of funding to local government, has agreed to review the way in which the prevention fund and rapid rehousing transition plan funding is used to prevent homelessness. We aim to combine these resources and implement a new funding framework to transform the use of temporary accommodation.
Analysis of data gathered from local authorities will inform these proposals, which will then be considered by ministers, the settlement and distribution group and COSLA leaders.
- We are reviewing the resources allocated for prevention and rapid rehousing transition plans and plan to implement a new funding framework that is better aligned with our aims to prevent homelessness and to transform the use of temporary accommodation.
We said we would establish a third sector homelessness fund to support transformational change and launch it by the end of 2020.
The Scottish Government initially established the three year £4.5 million third sector homelessness fund in 2019 and, in early 2020, third sector organisations were invited to apply. Awards from the fund, which is administered by Corra Foundation on behalf of the Scottish Government, were delayed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. In June 2020, ministers took the difficult decision to postpone allocating funding for new projects to allow organisations across Scotland to focus on responding to the pandemic. To mitigate the impact on the third sector during this first year, the Scottish Government offered funding extensions to recipients of our Housing Voluntary Grant Scheme. We were pleased to announce the relaunch of the third sector homelessness fund at the start of this year.
- The Scottish Government relaunched the fund in January 2021 and organisations were invited to submit applications for years two and three of the fund.
- Awards were made from April 2021 to 20 organisations (in addition to awards from the Housing Voluntary Grant Scheme to 10 organisations). These organisations provide support to a range of groups with specific needs, including women experiencing homelessness, young people facing homelessness and those with no recourse to public funds.
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